At the very last minute last week, I said to Marcus, "We should go to New Orleans for Alex's spring break. She's a musician, it's a musical town, we can road trip it, and just stay for a long weekend. What do you say?"
Now, we are not spontaneous people. When it comes to trips, we are planners. So I don't know what got into me when I suggested it, and I don't know what got into him when he agreed. But Saturday morning we loaded up our car, and 6 hours later, we were in The Big Easy.
I've taken tons of photos with my big Nikon, and I'll be putting together a gallery of my favourite shots, but for now, here are some shots taken with my little point-and-shoot.
See you back in Houston, friends.
This was a good week! Here's why:
• Took a little break to walk through our local arboretum. I forget I should do this more often.
• A second-grade class created this survey and the questions are delightful. You bet I filled it out.
• Scientific proof that you're an entirely different person at age 77 than you were at 14. Lord, I would hope so.
• A photo series featuring beautiful women over the age of 100. So gorgeous.
• Danny Gregory explains how he draws a selfie. So cool.
• Dude, Skynet is coming. And even though I still maintain this was a good week (and the article indicates that this is a good thing), I have to admit I find this a little terrifying.
• Paper parkour. Really creative.
On that harmonious note, have a great weekend, everyone.
I'm back from the wonderful Be Conference, where I reunited with and met some incredible people (example: the women who were on the panel I moderated included one who has summited Mount Everest six times, another who happens to be the Deputy Director of Astrophysics at NASA, and yet another who is a health advocate and the creator of "female Viagra," a company which sold for a billion dollars. See what I mean?). As part of the conference, I also had the opportunity to sit with 4 young women during a mentorship session, where they asked questions, and I answered to the best of my ability. One woman asked me if I had a mentor myself.
"Huh," I thought for a moment. "That's a great question. I don't think I have a mentor -- I think of mentors as people who are older or more experienced in what you do, and has blazed the path you're about to take. What I do is a bit of a hodgepodge of all kinds of stuff, so there aren't many people I can think of who I know who are both older than me, and who have done the same work. But that said, I do have a war council."
I went on to explain that my war council was a very select group of friends who I tend to turn to for advice. Some are men, some are women. Some are older, and some are younger. Some of them know each other, and some have never met. And because, as I thought more about it, I realized that it's probably a good thing for everyone to have a war council, I wanted to share some of the traits of the folks on my own council to help identify the people in your own life who are probably on yours. Because not every friend, as great as he or she might be, is necessarily war council material.
So here are the traits the folks on my war council share:
1) The folks on my war council know me well. That's not to say that they've known me for a long time (although most of them definitely have), but nonetheless, they know my strengths and my weaknesses, and they have a pretty good read on the kinds of things that I'm passionate about, and what I don't suffer well. I can trust them to give me pretty insightful advice, because they know how I'm likely to react to any consequences of any decisions I make.
2) They understand the kind of work that I do, and what I'm about. They may not actually do the same things, but they get it.
3) When I have successes, they're genuinely happy for me. These aren't folks who get jealous if something good happens to me, nor do they try to tear me down. These are folks who want to celebrate when something great happens, even if I don't necessarily see the reason to.
4) They're also the ones who genuinely want to help when I fail. These are the folks who will listen with care when I grieve a failure, and allow me some time to process it, but they won't let me wallow. They let me know if I'm being overdramatic, and they help me find the baby steps needed to rise again.
5) That said, they're not afraid to tell me if I'm screwing up. They are kind, but they are firm. They tell me if something is a great idea, or if it doesn't seem like a good idea, they help walk me through the thought process behind my ideas to determine if there's a way to make them better.
6) I trust them. They keep secrets secret, without a second thought. They're willing to be vulnerable with me, when I'm vulnerable with them.
7) They don't have any stakes in my game. They are somewhat disinterested parties, in that they have no conflicts of interest in giving me advice.
8) They always have my best interest at heart. And the feeling is very mutual.
I hope you all have war councils, friends -- they're worth their weight in gold, straight-up.
Soundtrack: The future is female, by Madame Gandhi. This young woman, the former drummer for M.I.A., performed at the Be Conference. She's a Georgetown University graduate (double-majored in mathematics and government, with a minor in women's studies), and a Harvard MBA. Her music is amazing, and I got to speak with her for some time after her performance -- she was positively charming.
I told you I met incredible folks.
This was a good week! Heres why:
• Tons of brainstorming, and getting ready to attend the Be Conference in Austin this weekend. (The conference starts Sunday afternoon, and tickets are still available, use coupon code Karen99 for a huge discount -- $200 off, bringing the price to only $99!)
• A couple married for 37 years always wears matching outfits. This is adorable. (However, do not expect Marcus and me to do this: I think only one of us should ever wear bad Hawaiian shirts, and that person will never be me.)
• Horses, underneath. So weird.
• This madman -- er, I mean, intrepid traveler -- made it across the Atlantic on a stand-up paddleboard, and raised almost half a million dollars to help impoverished children in the process. Amazing -- and I gotta admit that these days, when people put their personal safety on the line to help people in need, I can't help but be really impressed.
• My very sweet friend, photographer Stephanie Calabrese, was featured in the New York Times this week! You should check out her work: she shot it all with an iPhone. I so need to up my iPhonography game.
• And finally, for today's song of the day, a performance of the earliest piece of music ever written for the keyboard, c. 1360. Click here or the image below to listen.
Have a great weekend, friends.
My time in New York has my wheels turning in ways that they haven't turned in a long while, and i'm thinking of all sorts of things I'd like to try this year. First step: narrow them down to doable steps.
Because I like to share who inspires me, here are the people I met last week, who blew my mind:
- Ibtihaj Muhammad, the Olympic fencer, and the first Muslim woman to wear hijab on Team USA (and also the designer behind this gorgeous clothing line). She's smart, and funny, and so, so kind. Wonderful person.
- Caryn Franklin, one of the most stylish women I have ever met, and fierce image activist with deep understanding on the politics of image and self-esteem.
- Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum, the mother-daughter team behind StyleLikeU.com, a provocative and inspirational site on personal style as defined by people all over the world of different cultures and backgrounds. Their What's Underneath series is mindblowing; and I've featured this video that they created in collaboration with Allure Magazine before, featuring another person I admire deeply, Michaela Angela Davis.
- Daphne Selfe, Britain's oldest professional model. She is 88 years old, and is full of fire and passion, and has no intention of ever stopping. She "loves being around the young people," she says.
- Megan Jayne Crabbe of Body Posi Panda, a woman so full of joy and confidence and true pleasure in being in her own body that it's breathtaking.
Being around all of these women, albeit for a brief time last week, shifted something in me. I'm not sure what this means, exactly, but I do know this: today, International Woman's Day, I love that they've continued to make me think.
I've been working with the Dove brand for several years now, primarily on their Self Esteem Project; so when I got an email from one of my contacts at Dove about 6 weeks ago asking if I could be in LA for a photo shoot the following week, I didn't really raise an eyebrow. "It's the 60th anniversary of Dove's beauty bar," she explained. "And they're looking for real women to photograph for a special event."
"Sure," I immediately responded. I love working with Dove. Then as an afterthought: "As long as I'm not going to be photographed in my underwear."
(Because, you know, with Dove, you never know.)
"No, I don't think you'll be in your underwear," my friend wrote back. ("'Think'?" I worried to myself.)
But off I went. And that's how, in late January, I found myself in the most fabulous loft space in Los Angeles with 5 other women, being photographed by none other than Mario Testino. As in, the Mario Testino. The one who shot those iconic photographs of Princess Diana. And the cover image of my favourite Madonna album. My photography idol.
I can't begin to tell you what a thrill this was for me. Because this was for Dove, a brand that is committed to showing real women, I knew going in that I wasn't going to have to worry about them making me look like anything other than I am: I was told to bring clothes that made me feel great to wear, and the makeup artist took great care to make sure my makeup was as natural as possible (they even took the nail polish I was wearing off, so that my nails were bare). And obviously, it was such an honour to be in front of Mr. Testino's camera. But mostly, I just wanted to watch him work. So when it was my time to sit for him, I studied him carefully, trying to soak up every minute.
So here's the thing about Mr. Testino: if I was forced to come up with a single word to describe him, that word would undoubtedly be elegant. He's tall -- much taller than I expected -- and was so incredibly kind. When he greeted me, he put his hand on my shoulder, like I was just the person he'd been wanting to meet all day. (I haven't washed my shoulder since that day.) (I'm kidding.) (Or am I?). He was the consummate professional, of course -- treating the makeup artists and the stylists with deference. And he was so generous with his own team -- men who helped build the sets and get his cameras ready, no doubt photographers themselves -- asking them for their feedback on the images as they were immediately uploaded onto laptops in the room, and even asking them for their suggestions on the lenses he should use (as if he didn't already know which ones he was planning on using). He was photographer and coach and artist and teacher and leader all wrapped up in one, and my 15 minutes in front of his camera ended far too soon. I had hoped that I would like him in person, of course -- I've admired him for so long, after all -- but I never imagined how much I would end up really adoring him. I've become an even huger superfan, if that was even possible.
For this particular campaign, Mr. Testino traveled all over the world to photograph 30 women: first in LA, before moving on to London, and then finally to India. The results were shown last Thursday at a gallery in New York City, shown above, for members of the foreign press. Along with 8 other speakers (including the amazing women behind the groundbreaking and provocative website StyleLikeU; Daphne Selfe, Britain's oldest professional supermodel; not to mention the inimitable Olympian fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, to name just a few), we spoke to these international journalists about our own definitions of what it means to be beautiful, before I headed off to see the exhibit myself. Only one of the other women who was photographed for the exhibit -- the gorgeous Megan of Body Posi Panda -- was in attendance, and after Mr. Testino spoke to the crowd, we pushed our way through to thank him.
As we approached, he caught our eye, and his eyes lit up with recognition (but I suppose that Megan's rainbow-coloured hair and my big afro are probably easy to remember). He grinned big and greeted us.
"It's so good to see you!" he gushed.
"We're thrilled to be here," we gushed back. And then I said, "We won't keep you -- your fans await -- but we just wanted to thank you, and tell you how honoured we are to have been photographed by you."
"Oh, you're so welcome," he enthused. "Do you like the pictures?" as if he was just some random person who grabbed one of our cameraphones to take the shots.
"Absolutely," we grinned. "This whole experience is incredible."
And then he looked at Megan. "You still have your colour," he said, looking approvingly at her hair.
"Are you kidding?" she laughed. "Now that you've photographed it, I'm never getting rid of it!"
I know exactly how she feels.
Anyway, friends, without further ado, here's the official photograph he took of me for the campaign:
And click here or the image below to watch the behind-the-scenes footage of all three photo shoots.
I'm beyond grateful to Dove, Mr. Testino, his team, the stylists, the makeup artists and all of the amazing people I was honoured to meet as a part of this entire 2-month-long adventure. This experience was easily one of the biggest highlights of my life, and speaking with the other women last week at the press event was so inspiring for me, that I find myself thinking about their words over and over again, and how I can incorporate their wisdom into my life. I'm sure I'll be sharing their words and ideas here from time to time in the months to come.
But, man, what a wonderful ride. Such an honour.
This was a great week! Here's why.
• Someone in our house is a teenager today. And I'm having a hard time that this happened as many as 13 years ago. She's my favourite, man.
• This photo made me laugh. And then it confused me.
• I can't wait to tell you about my New York trip. More next week.
• And finally, today's soundtrack -- Tank and the Bangas, a New Orleans band who won NPR's Tiny Desk Contest. Click here the image below to listen to their wild, catchy sound.
Happy weekend, friends.
(I'm writing this at 30,000' again, on an overnight trip to New York City. It seems like the only time I have to write lately is when I'm stuck in a pressurized metal tube unreasonably high above the earth -- but I'm not complaining. Forced concentration time for the win.)
A couple of nights ago, I walked out of my house right around sunset -- I'd been staring at a screen all day, and I was starting to feel uptight and even a little trapped. So i went outside to get some fresh air, like I often do around sunset. Except this time, I noticed that one of our trees, which has been barren for months, is starting to grow tiny shoots.
It reminded me of my friend Gayla, who is a gardener -- in fact, she has a huge online community and she's written books about it -- and a few years ago, instead of sending out holiday cards, she would send her friends a packet of seeds at the beginning of spring. For her, spring was the start of a new year, and it's sort of easy to see why. And honestly, this year, I think because I was writing my book at such a breakneck speed at the end of 2016, i didn't really have time to savor the winding down of one year, and the beginning of another. It's only now, 8 weeks in, that I'm starting to get my bearings, and really think about what I want 2017 to be. Honestly, so far, so good -- but I'm getting a bit of clarity of how I"m going to shape it.
Better late than never, I suppose.
And so, friends, "happy new year." I hope that you've settled into 2017 well, and any clouds are beginning to lift.
Spring is on its way.
This was a wonderful week! Here's why:
• Out of the blue, I received the gift of a tiny little orchid from some huge-hearted friends. It made my week.
• It's Carnival season, and my childhood friend, Maria Nunes, is a photographer who captures the classic characters and costumes from traditional Trinidadian Carnival. Her Facebook album of images of the "moko jumbies" (stiltwalkers) leave me breathless (and somewhat homesick).
• Speaking of photographs -- this photographer captures the vibe of megacities. Amazing work.
• Toying with the idea of a trip to Hawaii in the foreseeable future -- and this video of volcanic island formation is doing a great job of convincing me that this would be a great idea.
• And finally, for today's soundtrack: Imagine, as performed by Herbie Hancock and friends. Click here or the image below to listen.
Have a great weekend, friends.